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Why the White House Must Stop Trying to Negotiate With the GOP


Uhm, White House? When you are negotiating with *epistemic relativists, this doesn't work:

the White House argues the president has already essentially agreed to $44.8 billion in spending cuts from his original proposal. Add the current $6.5 billion in new cuts proposed today and voila! – roughly half of $100 billion.

Republicans argue that President Obama’s original budget is a nonsensical baseline from which to begin since it was never enacted.

What you have to do, Republicans say, is start from the current level of spending as represented in the original Continuing Resolution.

This is why, House Republicans say, they only claimed to have cut spending by $61 billion, not $100 billion. They say to do otherwise is taking credit for $44 billion in cuts the White House never actually agreed to in any serious negotiation.

“I understand that maybe some people who originally decided to use that math may not want to use that anymore,” Pfeiffer said today. “There are innumerable quotes, many of them in stories in papers that you guys did on that day,…with Republican leadership saying that they cut $100 billion on that day. By that measure we have come half way.”

“Their thing hasn’t passed into law either, right?” said Sperling “This is the president of the United States has put forward a request that’s his ideal budget that he put forward. They put forward their ideal proposal. Something they could pass in the House, but and that’s – there’s a $102.3 billion difference there. I don’t know why when you’re covering any type of negotiation that it’s not highly relevant to know where the president’s proposal was, where their proposal was, and then, and then if there’s movement – to what degree is that splitting the difference or moving towards one side or the other. So I think it’s a totally legitimate important thing covering the negotiation.”

Pfeiffer added that “what is clear is that we are at the beginning of the process discussing this. They are not going to get everything they want. We’re not going to get everything we want. And we’re going to discuss how we’re going to get there. Much like the tax cut deal.”

I think that tax cut "deal" may have made the administration stupid.

Their objective isn't to "get a compromise" or "split the difference" so everyone in the Village will drool all over them because they are so awesomely bipartisan. It's to get what they want. The other side really, really, really wanted those tax cuts and they got them. Now they really, really, really want spending cuts.

Arguing over semantics or even arithmetic with these people is to fundamentally misunderstand how they operate.

But hey, not to worry. All they have to do is give the other side what they want, order the Democrats to clap as loud as they possibly can and the Village will declare them brilliant negotiators. Perhaps it will even buy them a point or two in the polls for a month or so.

*Epistemic relativism: the view that there is no objective standard for evaluating some lines of reasoning as better than others. Instead, the epistemic relativist holds that what counts as a good reason for holding a view is relative one’s situation and interests.

This is otherwise known as "I know you are but what am I" argument. Example: that argument above.

Update: fergawdsake:

As of several days ago, this math might have worked with the GOP. But as negotiations have entered a new stage, so to has the context. Republicans now insist negotiations instead should be based off current spending levels, not those in Obama's 2011 budget proposal. With that as a baseline, their CR offers roughly $60 billion in cuts. The president, in turn, offers just $10 billion (the $4 billion passed already plus the $6 billion suggested on Thursday).

"I understand that people maybe want to change the math, now," said Pfeiffer, arguing that it would be irresponsible for the media to base the current proposals off anything other than FY 2011 suggestions. "What is clear is no matter what math they use, Republicans won't get everything they want and Democrats won't get everything they want."

One thing Republicans might not get are the host of riders that attached to their continuing resolution, including language that would cut off, among other things, funds for Planned Parenthood.

"We think the focus should be on how to cut spending in a way that is smart for the economy," said Sperling, "and that no one should get that core mission derailed by focusing on any political or ideological [cause]."

On the Hill, the talk was even tougher. Several female Democrats took to the floor on Thursday to denounce the Republican proposal as demonstrably unfair towards women. Aides, meanwhile, insisted no deal would be reached if House GOP leadership didn't drop some of the more draconian cuts and riders.

"Our side believes that any measure that keeps the government running should be clean of extraneous legislating," said on top Democratic aide.

Oh man. I'd laugh if it wasn't so depressing.

Hullabaloo / By Digby | Sourced from

Posted at March 4, 2011, 3:42am

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